The Subcortical Center of the Affective Defense Reaction

  • W. R. Hess
  • M. Brügger


In the experimental material collected by one of us since 1925 there are numerous cases in which carefully controlled stimulation of subcortical areas of the cat evoked symptoms of affective excitation [10–12, 15]. The centrally elicited reaction agrees extensively, as a rule completely, with the results we obtain under physiological conditions when the cat is confronted by a dog and, in this threatening situation, seeks to defend itself. Shortly after the beginning of electrical stimulation, one hears a warning growl which turns into hissing and spitting. At the same time there is piloerection of the tail, which soon gets thick and bushy; the hairs along the spine also stand up. The pupils widen and in some cases there is a rapid back-and-forth movement of the ears, recalling the flapping wings of a bat. Thus the entire effect at the climax of the affective defense reaction is particularly frightening and, as a rule, effective. The pronounced arching of the back, which is rather striking in the physiological situation, is notably absent. Furthermore, it should be emphasized that the centrally excited animal passes from defense to attack, thus conforming to the normal defense tactics of the cat. This behavioral response is surprising in yet another respect. One would think that with central placing of the stimulus and the absence of an external trigger the symptoms would develop without a specific spatial direction.


Stimulation Point Central Gray Matter Stimulus Point Tuber Cinereum Stimulus Site 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. R. Hess
  • M. Brügger

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